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FDA Issues Warning About Serious Dangers of Pure Caffeine Powder

A large percentage of the U.S. population ingests some amount of caffeine on a daily basis. Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate, to name just a few, contain the substance in varying amounts. A natural substance that’s been used around the world for centuries, caffeine wakes us up in the morning and keeps us alert throughout the day.

But, the amounts of caffeine we take in through drinks and foods are nowhere near the level absorbed from pure caffeine powder sold by multiple companies over the internet. While too much coffee may cause nervousness and jitters, as little as a teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine—the equivalent of downing 25 cups of coffee at once—can kill.

caffeine powder injuryBecause the powder is sold as a “dietary supplement” rather than an ingredient in food or drink, however, it is unregulated. Despite this absence of regulation, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory warning against using the powder after an 18-year-old high-school senior died from cardiac arrhythmia and a seizure after ingesting the substance in May 2014. The warning was reiterated on December 16, 2014, after FDA officials met with the parents of the teen and of another young man (a newly married 24-year-old recent college graduate) who had died after using the powder. The parents of both men killed by the powder revealed to FDA officials that their sons had believed the powder was a safe method of providing an energy boost and were able to obtain the powder with little difficulty or expense by ordering it online. (This dangerous powder can be purchased, for example, on websites that sell vitamins and supplements, on eBay, and on Etsy.)

After speaking with these parents about their children’s deaths, Michael M. Landa, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated:

“We [the FDA] are working right now on our next steps. In the meantime, I cannot say strongly enough how important it is to avoid using powdered caffeine. The people most drawn to it are children, teenagers, and young adults, especially students who want to work longer to study, athletes who want to improve their performance, and others who want to lose weight.”

According to another FDA spokesperson, the difference between a safe and a lethal amount of this chemical is very small, and because the tiny amount considered to be safe (which may be somewhere between 1/32nd and 1/16th of a teaspoon) is nearly impossible to accurately measure with common kitchen tools, a lethal overdose can all too easily occur. Added to the danger of inaccurate dose measurement, per the FDA, are the insufficient labels provided with pure caffeine powders, which fail to adequately warn consumers of the serious dangers associated with even a slight overdose of the product.

Pure caffeine powder is not the only caffeinated product known to cause serious injury and death. According to reports, the FDA began an investigation, in 2013, into 5-hour caffeine-based energy products after 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations resulted from the products’ use. As a result of FDA pressure, several other caffeine-infused drinks and an inhalable caffeine product have been banned in several states. Until FDA pressure can achieve similar results with pure powdered caffeine—which contains far more caffeine than these other products—the agency strongly urges against any further use of the substance.

When a product is found to have caused someone’s injury or death, the manufacturer, seller, and others may be held legally responsible if the product is found to be unreasonably dangerous under product-liability law. The Killino Firm’s defective-products, personal-injury, and wrongful death lawyers have extensive experience with cases involving injuries and deaths caused by defective or dangerous products. If you have been injured or a family member has died and you suspect that the injury or death was caused by a defective product, The Killino Firm can help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled from the responsible parties.

Legal Liability for Pure Caffeine Powder Injuries and Deaths

Product-liability law generally provides that certain entities and individuals involved in the production and sale of defective products may be held strictly liable for injuries and deaths caused by certain types of defects in those products. These defects include defects in the design, manufacture, or warnings of products. In the case of the pure caffeine powder that has caused the death of two young men, the product may be alleged to be defective as a result of the absence or inadequacy of the warnings and instructions that come with the product.

A product may be considered unreasonably dangerous (i.e., legally defective) under product-liability law when the insufficiency or absence of warnings or instructions prevent consumers from appreciating the specific dangers associated with the product’s use and/or fail to advise them of how the product must be used in order to avoid those dangers. Pure powdered caffeine, which can cause death or serious injury (for example, seizures, rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, and coma) if taken in any amount over a very small dose necessitating precise and difficult measurement, requires specific and clear warnings and directions to enable consumers to use it safely. Indeed, one of the concerns noted by FDA officials is the inadequacy of the warnings that come with most sellers’ pure caffeine products.

When someone is injured or killed as a result of overdosing on pure caffeine powder sold by one of these companies, the company may be held strictly liable (without evidence or proof of negligence on the seller’s part) for the damages suffered as a result of the injury or death. Such strict liability is justified in the law because consumers are forced to depend upon product sellers to provide warnings and instructions required for products’ safe use.

Obtain Legal Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.

The Killino Firm’s team of personal injury lawyers and defective-products attorneys and paralegals has been recognized around the country for its dedication to holding those responsible for injuries and deaths caused by defective products, medical malpractice, or other negligence accountable through legal action. Contact The Killino Firm for high quality assistance with your accident or injury case.

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Date published: 03/05/2015
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